Quick Writing Update

Hey guys. Here’s a stream of consciousness writing update.

It’s really hard to stay motivated sometimes.

In May I took a break from writing for two weeks because we had friends and family in town and now I’m really struggling to jump back into it. My Beatles book has only been querying for a few months but the rejections (although an important part of the process) can be hard hits sometimes.

Not only that but I discovered that Disney Hyperion picked up a series a similar idea as the one that I’m currently working on. I don’t know if that means the market is good for mine, or if I’m SOL. Now, I’m trying to shape this book into something that can stand on it’s own two feet. It’s different enough that I’m confident to finish, but still feeling that pressure knowing I’m going to have competition right out of the gate.

I’ve just been thinking about the back end of publishing too hard and it’s effecting my art. I don’t want to write for a publisher. I want to write for me. But then, can I really feel successful even if nothing happens with my writing? I’d like to think that I would. My bookcase is already filling with manuscripts faster than I thought it would. Soon I’ll have an entire shelf of my own completed work. But still would be nice to share some of these stories with you guys.

My electrician surprised me the other day by asking me all about my writing. When he asked me if I could send him the link to “my shop” I sheepishly gave him the name of the anthology I was published in three years ago. People asking where they can buy my work is happening a lot more often. I’ve always considered at some point self publishing. Even for curiosity sakes.

I told my critique partner that if I were ever to self publish Love Me Do, it would do the absolute best as a radio-play type audiobook. I envision this as being it’s highest and most entertaining form. There’s a lot of music in it; Beatles, 50s, and even new, original songs. I think being able to hear the quips from a Lennon impersonator would be fabulous. I could do the narration and the main character Em. That really wouldn’t intimidate me. But anyway, not to get your hopes up about it, because to be able to bring exactly what I imagine to light would cost a lot in production. I would have to find some bang up impersonators AND an impersonator band. Figure out copyright and legality. All the actors and sound production and music to mix. It would just be a lot. Even though that’s probably the best form this story could take.

I wanted to cheer myself up, so I had a graphic designer help me with a book cover. Not for any other reason than to put the thing on my shelf and feel better about the hard two years that went into it.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I’m sure it’s not fun hearing about projects that are not available to read. I’ve had a lot of brainstorming over this blog and well, about you guys! I’ve been playing with some ideas. Ways to bring you into my writing world a lot more! A fun community to build!

So that’s all I want to say I guess, is thank you from my inky writerly heart for supporting me and reading what I have to say and letting me have a voice. I love you guys.

My Kids Say the Darndest Things (March 2021)

Casey had a fever. So I brought down our no-touch thermometer (best pandemic purchase ever). The only set back is the kids loooooove to play with it, so as soon as Casey saw it he demanded he take his own temperature. I let him hold onto it and went off to get the Tylenol. When I returned I heard him talking to the thermometer in his hands, “Hello, temperature. Do you want to play?” And then he replied to himself in a high pitched voice, “Yes.”

We bought a Roomba. (Second best pandemic purchase ever) At first, Casey told me he was “scared the robot”, but he warmed up quickly. Now he follows it around and makes kissy sounds and telling it to “come”. “Come, robot.” Then he announces to me that the robot is named George and George is his friend.

I told Jack to blow a feather off my finger and make a wish. He squeezed his eyes shut and whispered to himself, “I wish for a pink unicorn.”

One night it was really windy and Dan had left the window open in his office the slightest crack. Every time the wind blew through the window it would howl loudly. Well, I didn’t explain to the boys what the sound was… so they decided on their own that it was because there was “an owl” in the house. They were both ABSOLUTELY convinced that there was an owl inside hooting loudly and walked around trying to find it.

*Jack’s stomach gurgles loudly*

ME: Oh, are you digesting?

JACK: I not ‘gestin. I’m Jack!


Casey biting into an uncooked macaroni: “Ooh, this is a yucky rainbow.”

JACK: Moooooooom, get me some juice.

ME: Nuh-uh, mister. You need to use the magic word.

JACK: (in all sincerity) … “chicken”?

ME: “Please”.

JACK: Ohhhhhhhhh.

ME: *after cleaning the kitchen* Wow. Okay. That was a lot of hard work!

JACK: Yeah, it was! You do a lot of hard work, Mom. Good job for doing that hard work!

ME: *trying not to cry*

That Time at Pandemic Panda Express

Here’s an embarrassing story I just remembered:

Sometimes (and what I really mean is everytime) I will get so flustered that I’m going to do something awkward and embarrassing that I END UP ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING AWKWARD AND EMBARRASSING. And this story was one of those times…

Once upon a pandemic we wanted Chinese food. So okay what’s the safest thing to do here? We have one Panda Express x miles away with a drive thru… but everyone and their convertible uses the Morris Farms Panda drive thru. So Dan put in a take out order for a different have-to-come-inside Panda establishment.

So we load up THE ENTIRE FAMILY in the minivan because THERE’S LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE TO GO AND DO. So family trip to the Panda Express it is. We drive up and park and then Dan hands me a mask and tells me to run in and get it.

I start PANIC SWEATING.

Not because I’m afraid of catching coronavirus.

But because I’m a giant woman-child who can’t do anything by herself.

“Wha-what? You want me to get it? But you usually get it! I don’t even know where to go! So where do you pick it up? Do you pay for it or… okay it’s prepaid… so it’s like just picking up the food and walking out!? Do I need my ID? How are they gonna know I’m your wife?? What if I do it wrong somehow? What if I get in trouble should I call you??”

Dan is getting seriously irritated at me because it’s not like I’m a navy seal securing the area, I’m literally JUST PICKING UP ORANGE CHICKEN AND WALKING OUT. 

So I go inside the Panda with my mask on… okay, I don’t know if you’ve been inside a Panda Express in the past year, but they have this military set up. They use their own tables and chairs to BLOCK YOU into the line. And then they very clearly have where you’re supposed to stand marked out on the floor. So as soon as you walk in through the door you’re ushered into the line.

But… okay… I just want to get my take out.

I can literally see the white plastic bag all tied up on a rack WAY at the other end of the line. Like a cheese at the end of the maze. But how am I supposed to get there? Am I really supposed to CUT THE LINE to pick up the food that’s already been ordered. Get my germs into everyone’s personal bubble as I push past them? The idea of cutting the line is basically spiking my blood pressure. I can’t even ask for extra napkins at most places because I do not want to bother anyone. I mean just the very idea that I could be SLIGHTLY inconveniencing someone. Or NOT OBEYING THESE PANDA SAFETY RULES.

So I wait in line.

I can see the food over there getting cold… Dan’s texting me like “R U SERIOUS WHAT’S TAKING YOU SO LONG YOU JUST HAVE TO PICK IT UP.” So now I’m having double anxiety about slightly inconveniencing the Panda Express patrons or slightly inconveniencing my husband by making him wait five minutes.

ALRIGHT FINE. I slide past people in line with about a thousand apologies, get the take out bag, run out of there as if I’m a Pink Panther robber with a briefcase full of jewelry. And I’m dying in the most dramatic way you can think of. And if you’re super annoyed and confused reading this… what’s it like to not have anxiety? Is it nice? Is it peaceful? Can you just walk into stores and pick up Orange Chicken at your leisure? How is that kind of power? I bet you sleep great.

I’m so flustered that I’m just power walking through the parking lot, having a pre-argument with my husband inside my mind. “Yeah, well, you shoulda SEEN IT. The tables and chairs were BLOCKING US ALL INTO THIS ONE LITTLE LINE.”

I get to the car and pull on the handle. Locked. I’m flustered and irritated by my pretend argument so I tap ferociously on the window and point down at the car lock. THEN HE STARTED TO DRIVE AWAY! And I chased him down so angrily. Tapping harder on the window. HELLO! DON’T BE A BUTTHOLE JUST BECAUSE IT TOOK ME A SOLID MINUTE TO WORK UP THE COURAGE TO CUT THE LINE.

And then a stranger rolled down her window. BOISTERIOUSLY laughing.

“I’VE DONE THAT!” she yelled at me.

I really just tried to get into the wrong car. Um. It didn’t even look like my car. Hardly even in the same color palette. So not only did I just spend X amount of minutes FREAKING OUT over the Panda Express rules. (As if the Seinfeld Soup Nazi works at Panda Express.) BUT I ALSO TRIED TO GET INTO A STRANGER’S CAR AND GOT IRRITATED AT HER AS SHE PULLED AWAY.

I slunk back to my ACTUAL car with my tail in between my legs. Dan is laughing and probably also like… k… I’m married to this hot mess wtf.

And yeah.

So, that’s it. I could hardly function before the pandemic. And now it’s just one weird social distance freak out at a time.

This is Me.

I’m very nervous about this post…

I don’t know about you, but quarantine became an introspection boot camp for me. For the past year, I have been going through an existential, incredibly spiritual, life changing process. And I guess I want to talk about that… I guess I want to talk about me. The real actual me.

Because what I’ve discovered during my introspection boot camp is that I hold back the real me a lot. I mean, it’s a human desire to please others and be likeable, but… I do that to SUCH an extent that… I think many people don’t know me very well. Even people who are very close to me.

So this is a very vulnerable post for me… because it’s real and raw… and it’s me.

Hello, I’m Val.

I’ve always loved being called “Val”. I feel endeared to anyone who shortens my name to “Val”, I’m not sure why. I think it’s because it feels warm and close. Like the person using the nickname wants to be my good friend. The name “Valerie” is always something that I’ve exceptionally liked about myself.

I’m an outgoing person who suffers from an overwhelming social anxiety.

I think this confuses a lot of people and makes me come off as a brat and a flake. (Or maybe that’s the social anxiety telling me how I come off). I don’t know if I’m actually an extrovert or an introvert. I get energy from being around others and desire to be around others. But I also hate leaving my house and often want to be alone. It’s strange. I will go minutes from performing on stage in front of hundreds of people to not being able to go to a cast party of a handful of people. Oh, parties… I’ve been called ‘The Life of the Party’ before… wut?… I am TERRIFIED of parties! Really, really terrified of big groups. I’ll be at a party and have to leave to the bathroom or to my car to cry… spend a few minutes in literal tears… fix my eye-makeup and return to the party. I’ve done this many, many, many times in my life. I don’t want to be an anti-social person, but I get easily overwhelmed and anxious. Really the only way I cope at a big party is if I tuck myself into a corner somewhere with one other person. One-on-one time and quality time are everything to me. And that’s when I really light up.

I am a Mormon.

Yeah, I’m pretty Mormon. Once I got lost in a Walmart and ended up in the alcohol aisle and I actually said out loud, “Where am I?”. HAHAHA!

I don’t post about my religion often, but it is truly me. And I truly am a believer of Christ.

Spirituality is more important to me than my religion.

I have found a personal spirituality and it is the foundation and forefront of my religious beliefs. I really have developed a strong love for exploring my spirituality. Meditation and introspection. I don’t know why I shy away from talking about it so much. I think I’m nervous that people will think I’m “kooky”. But so what? I totally am! That’s who I am! Hahaha!

I just really love communicating with The Divine. With The Spirit. With myself and the energies around me. I have a strong belief in communication. In intuition. It guides me in my daily life and choices. I don’t have to shy away from this part of myself. It’s A HUGE PART of myself. I love my church but my personal spirituality and relationship with God has become the priority for me. I can ask Him anything and receive wisdom and knowledge. It’s a constant battle to put aside my pride and be open-minded to this communication. Open-minded to the fact that I know so little. To the fact that others on Earth and their diversity have so much to teach me as well.

I’m artsy fartsy

Same with spirituality… I don’t know why I hold back this part of me so much, because it’s actually a big part of me! … I find meaning in everything. And everything is lovely and purposeful to me. The shape of the trees and the size of the moon. All these metaphors and lessons all around us. Art is everything. Art is civilization. The hippie culture resonates with me. I enjoy symbolic performance art unironically. (There, I finally said it!) All I want to do is create. If I’m not creating everything feels heavy and sad. I live to create and enjoy creation.

I have weird taste in movies…

Open apology but if you’ve ever asked me if I’ve liked a movie and all I said was yes… I probably lied. I never NOT have a really strong opinion about a movie! I think I lie because I would never want to rain on someone who has connected with a piece of art. I’m not trying to be pretentious or a critic… because the stuff that I actually DO like is weird as hell! I never noticed until Dan pointed this out but I “only watch old movies”. But he’s right! I really do prefer old movies to anything else. Just the same as music.

So I don’t know. It’s not anything shocking or unique. But it’s me. And I realized that I don’t have the easiest time sharing myself. I’ve been spending too much of my life trying to mold myself into whatever will make the other person the most comfortable… but why do that? Why can’t I be my artsy, new-age Mormon bundle of anxieties? There’s nothing wrong with who I am. Even these little things. And if it takes a year of pandemic isolation for me to love who I really am, then that’s okay. And I’m here. Writing these miniscule things about myself but feeling free to do it.

Love is accepting another person for who they are, especially the things that make them different. So this is how I love myself, by accepting these “weird” things about me.

5 Reason’s Why you Loved The Queen’s Gambit

A TV show about chess. Why were we so obsessed?

I binged this show in a handful of days. MESMERIZED TO TEARS. This was one of the few series that reminds me how desperately passionate I am about storytelling. Here are my authorly reasons why this series was so captivating. (lite spoilers)

1. They take their time in a meaningful way

Personally, as a writer I’m terrible at this, so I was just in AWE of how flawlessly they pulled this off. It was really a genius move to make a limited series rather than a full movie. They slowed everything down to fully develop the story and the characters throughout the episodes, but it didn’t FEEL slow. And that’s because each shot and scene were purposeful toward the narrative.

You don’t have any of that heavy misplaced exposition. You don’t hear some character droning on about how “Margret from high school became a sad alcoholic.” The MC runs into Margret at the store and hears the liquor bottles clink under the baby carriage. And that’s it. It’s never explicitly said. But we know exactly what it means.  Proving that YES, you can pull off show vs tell in a cinematic sense. 

The Queen’s Gambit is FULL of this brilliant storytelling. Taking time to really show what the other characters are thinking and feeling without saying it. I think the most capital example is the way the Borgov raises his eyebrows when Beth resigns her Paris game in tears. That expression alone. That .04 seconds of screen time and YOU KNOW. You know that character is not the ruthless Soviet antagonist. You know Borgov is a sympathetic man who completely understands Beth. That shot perfectly sets up his warm reaction toward her in the end. (Which made me bawl by the way thank you very much) Such dynamic characters! LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT!

2. The characters are real

Be honest… did you or did you not Google whether Beth Harmon was a real person? BECAUSE IT FELT LIKE A TRUE STORY. If you told me it was a true story, I wouldn’t have flinched! And not just Beth but each character is so carefully developed and detailed with their own voices and experiences. They’re not just pegs of a stool holding up the protagonist, any ONE of them could have had a compelling series themselves.

I never stop complaining about “the generic good-looking cast” that so many movies dish out. It makes the whole movie seem like a catalog ad and not a believable set of people. So I really appreciated that they let the people LOOK real. Even Beth, who in the show is called “pretty” many times, and yeah she is, but in a REAL kind of way. Like someone you would sit across from at the airport. Not a matte photo of a model at a beach shoot.

Another thing I noticed, is they would introduce a seemingly small character and then bring them back a few episodes later. This happened over and over again! Which said one thing to me… this writer loved their characters. This writer loved their characters so much that they had to bring them back and add more and more details. Their crooked teeth. The knife they carry. The full detailed life they had since they last saw Beth. I fell in love with these characters because the creators loved them. And they were actual meaningful driving forces in the protagonists life.


3. The simplicity

I just imagine the original author pitching the novel like:

Tevis: Okay, so there’s this orphan…

Publisher: Yeah?

Tevis: And she’s really good at chess.

Publisher: Okay.

Tevis: Like… super good.

Publisher: … … Can she at least have an addiction of some sort?

Tevis: Yeah, probably. But it’s mostly that she’s really good at chess.

(On my TBD list)

I have never been SO invested in chess in all my life. I never thought I would be on the edge of my seat watching so many chess matches. Caring SO MUCH whether or not this character was going to win. And that’s it! I do think the addiction aspect gave Beth a nice arc and made a clear self-antagonist… but really I cared way more about the chess than anything else. Because BETH cares about the chess more than anything else! We get it! Through the story-telling we understand that for this character, chess is the goal, the motivation and the stakes. And we believe the simplicity. She’s passionate about chess and that’s it.

4. Let’s talk about that actress!

Anya Taylor-Joy. Girl. Wow.

A trait of the Beth Harmon character is that she is solemn and mostly expressionless. That would be SUCH a challenge to portray well. I don’t know HOW they pulled this off, but they really did! I was completely sucked into her emotions. At every moment you knew how she was feeling without obvious expression on her face. Brilliantly done! If she were losing a chess match, fists up to the sides of her temples. If she were winning, fingers clasped under the chin. The consistency was flawless. Not just the adult actress but her childhood counterpart as well. They seamlessly made the character one.

5. THE PRODUCTION WAS SO BEAUTIFUL AND DETAILED

I love the sixties. I mean, obviously I do. And I love time period dramas. Of course. SO HELLO! No wonder I was a little biased towards this show. The music was SO good! So fitting too! And THE OUTFITS!! THE PRETTY PRETTY OUTFITS! ALL THE OUTFITS! GIVE ME ALL THE OUTFITS MORE MORE MORE

Excuse me while I swoon over this show for another three months.

Super Quick Life Update: WE ARE BUYING A HOUSE!!!

NEW HOUSE:

Sorry, I’ve been MIA this month. Things have been super crazy since we’re BUYING OUR FIRST HOME!!

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I seriously am in love so hard. Sometimes when I think about it, I feel all blubbery and teary-eyed haha. It’s everything I wanted and then some! We are signing all the closing paperwork TODAY and I honestly couldn’t be more STUNNED/ECSTATIC.

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THE KIDS:

Has everyone else been like non-stop sick? Because holy moly. This month has been the WORST. We’re just barely getting over the flu and thanks, it only took us A COUPLE OF WEEKS.

 

THE WRITING:

Things have been slow as hell. This is the slowest I’ve written in years. I remember when I proudly wrote a breezy 2k a day. Now when I write two sentences, I have to stop to wipe my brow and binge watch a horrible reality show because my fingers are so tired. It’s been some rough stuff man. In November alone, I wrote 50k words. Then it took December, January, February to wheeze out 20k.

crawling

And it’s not without a reason… House hunting and house buying has become like a full-time job almost. It’s so much work and time! One other hilarious thing that has slowed me down, is I can’t get myself to stop reading my own book. Usually, when I draft I have a strict no-reading-back policy, but with this one, I’ve been pretty naughty. I’ll try to refer back to a scene ‘real quick’ and ‘hey this is kind of funny’. Suddenly 100 pages later, I’ve been sucked in and I just wasted my designated writing time. That’s a good sign though, right? I mean, I don’t know if anyone else will be turning pages, but I LOVE THIS RIDICULOUS BOOK OF MINE. AND GOSH DARNIT I AM DETERMINED TO FINISH THIS FREAKING DRAFT BEFORE I MOVE! AND I WILL! JUST YOU WAIT NAYSAYER!

(I can’t tell you too much about the book yet, but what I can tell you is that it’s a dark-comedy time-travel story about The Beatles.)

Stay tuned for more updates, book announcements, videos of the new house, so on and so forth.

Another Short Story Finds a Home

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Hey. I haven’t had a chance to share this because I’ve been so busy with NaNo but I had another short story published. Which you can read for free online in the Salt Lily Magazine…

*PG13 warning* This story is a direct modern translation of a scene from Taming of the Shrew. Some of Shakespeare’s inappropriate jokes survived the translation. Plus some swears here and there.

Even if you don’t read the story, you still should check out Salt Lily Magazine. They often feature artists and musicians and just have really great content.

 

READ HERE: